In general I find the writing at the libertarian Cato Institute rather well-reasoned and frequently on target. That is why I am highly agitated by a piece written by Dan Mitchell of the institute today, which seems to throw facts to the wind in order to very belatedly jump on the “blame Bush” bandwagon.
In theory and out of context there is a grain of truth in Mr. Mitchell’s assertion that the first fiscal year of a presidency is not the responsibility of the incoming President. It is true that the FY 2009 budget was passed in 2008, when Bush was President.
But Mr. Mitchell seems to be quite willfully ignoring the extenuating circumstances of this fiscal year. The $787 billion “stimulus” package, which is very heavily responsible for the ballooning of this year’s deficit, was passed under Obama, not Bush. Yet by Mitchell’s mechanical scoring, that piece of… stimulus becomes retroactively Bush’s responsibility.
But beyond that there’s a more basic flaw in Mr. Mitchell’s reasoning, and admittedly one many here are partially guilty of at times. Budgets are written by Congress. Yes, the executive branch has influence in the process, but when it comes to actually writing down the numbers Congress has the final say. That is the way it is, and, in line with the Constitution, the way it has always been in this country.
I don’t know what sort of insect has penetrated Mr. Mitchell’s posterior to provoke such a loose and antagonistic piece out of him. But regardless, it is a great disappointment to see this sort of thing coming from the standard bearer for a political school which I have great respect for much of the time.